What is an “Enlightened Ego Consciousness?” Part IX: “The Man of Knowledge”

Some of you, I’m sure, are already familiar with Carlos Castaneda and his many books recounting his apprenticeship to the Yaqui brujo he names “don Juan Matus”. Castaneda is a controversial figure. Some believe he hoaxed the whole thing. I don’t concur with that judgement, and for reasons I’ve given in the past.

Today I want to show how Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” (and related to that, the indigenous “Sacred Hoop”) which we have been slowly introducing over the last few posts, explains many puzzling aspects of Castaneda’s experience.

There is a passage from Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge where don Juan is introducing Castaneda to the ways of a “man of knowledge”, and what he can expect on that way to becoming a man of knowledge. This particular passage addresses “the four enemies of a man of knowledge” which the apprentice must meet and overcome on his way to knowledge. These enemies are named Fear, Clarity, Power, and Old Age. They are quite paradoxical enemies or challengers which, like most other matters, have their polarities of light and dark. If you bear in mind Blake’s dictum that “opposition is true friendship”, you’ll also understand the ambiguities and paradoxes of the four enemies as both allies and enemies. 

I will not quote the passage here. You can read it online in many sites where it is cited (as for example here).

The four enemies, it may be noted, map to the directions of the Sacred Hoop. They are the conventional “Guardians of the Four Directions” we have encountered and discussed in other cultural contexts. A man or woman on the quest for knowledge must encounter, win over, and eventually also overcome each in succession — complete the hoop of life, as it were.

Sacred Hoop /Medicine Wheel

The four enemies also have something to do with time and space, and with Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”. Fear and Old Age are the first and last enemies, thus corresponding to past and future. Clarity and Power most obviously correspond to the inner and the outer fronts of space, so that the four enemies also map to Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”

Rosenstock-Huessy’s Basic Cross of Reality

The four directions are four phases in the process of self-realisation and self-overcoming. The danger here — the reason why these desirables become enemies — is that one can become stuck in one phase of the process, in a kind of monomania. “The spice must flow”, as it were.

What both symbolisms promote — cross of reality and sacred hoop (pretty much all mandalas) — is the view that consciousness and life do not evolve or unfold in only one direction of time, but in four directions — backwards, forwards, inwards, and outwards. What don Juan is explaining to Castaneda about the four enemies is also reflected in Rosenstock-Huessy’s explanation of the cross of reality

“The now and here of all of us means that we are living in a twofold space and a twofold time. And the term twofold is literally true, because time unfolds itself in two directions, past and future, the deeper, the more vitally we do live. The extension of the past, the prospect for the future, increase, when we look backward and forward with intensity and courage. And in the same manner, space unfolds itself more and more, the more we throw ourselves into the process of facing the outside world, and the inner process of agreement and harmony within the respective unit. Foward, backward, inward, and outward lie the dynamic frontiers of life, capable of intensification, enlargement, expansion, and exposed to shrinking and decay as well.

And we speak lest we break down under the strain of this quadrilateral. We speak in an attempt to ease this strain. To speak, means to unify, to simplify, to integrate life. Without this effort, we would go to pieces by either too much inner, unuttered desire, or too many impressions made upon us by our environment, too many petrified formulas fettering us from the past, or too much restless curiousity for the future.” (from Speech and Reality, p. 18)

Now, as you might have gleaned, the passage from Castaneda describing the four enemies of the man of knowledge and this passage from Rosenstock-Huessy justifying his “cross of reality” are very similar indeed. And the implication from both is clear — the integral life, the whole life, is one which comes to take its place at the centre of the Sacred Hoop or Cross of Reality, which is the pivot or fulcrum of the balance, and where, in don Juan’s description, fear, clarity, power, and old age are in check and in balance, and only then can one be called a “man of knowledge”.

These phases in self-realisation and self-overcoming are processes that occur in time and space. These phases can occur at any time in life. It is not a matter of years of life since “Old Age” can actually strike anyone down at any time in life. It’s called “world-weariness”.

It is not too much of an imaginative leap to see, also, that this arrangement of times and spaces and the four enemies might very well have something to do with Jean Gebser’s four civilisational types as “structures of consciousness” — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational, and the prospective integral. Structures of consciousness are differentiated largely based upon what particular direction or dimension of space or time they emphasise as “normal” — time past, time future, or the inner or the outer. Each was a successful attempt to overcome some challenge or another, but ultimately failed — entered into “deficient mode” as Gebser calls it– when faced with a different challenge from another direction. They broke down because they became overspecialisations of one direction and one modality of consciousness. In don Juan’s terms, they succumbed to one of the “enemies” which is what we call “hubris”. Each left one or more aspects of the fourfold human form or the full cross of reality undeveloped and unarticulated, so that when a challenge emerged from those “hidden dimensions”, they simply collapse — Nemesis. 

If you contemplate don Juan’s words about the four enemies and Rosenstock-Huessy’s remarks on his “cross of reality”, you’ll come to appreciate, too, what Gebser means by “distantiation” and “presentiation”, or “the vital centre”, “the ever-present origin” or “diaphainon“. The diaphainon is what don Juan is describing as the end quest that makes for a “man of knowledge”, and which is the core of Gebser’s “integral consciousness”.

For don Juan, when one’s fear, clarity, power, and old age have been overcome and are now in check and in balance one becomes a man or woman of knowledge, and “it is enough”. This is also the “Rebis” of the alchemists — “It is done“. This is what it means to “speak from the centre of the Voice” in indigenous lore as the centre of the Sacred Hoop, and the significance of that should now be apparent from Rosenstock-Huessy’s remarks on this, or why the indigenous will say that “the Sacred Hoop is in language”. Grammar is the living form of the Sacred Hoop or cross of reality.

Most important to realise in all this, though, is that for don Juan, for Rosenstock-Huessy, for Jean Gebser, for William Blake — consciousness evolves or unfolds not in one but in four directions, and by overcoming the challenges posed by those. Gebser employs a similar idiom to don Juan’s four enemies. But instead of Fear, Clarity, Power, and Old Age, he uses the terms “anxiety”, “transparency”, “effectiveness” and “deficiency”.

And this is why Blake’s illustration of “fourfold vision” has the same structure as the Sacred Hoop or Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”.

William Blake — the Fourfold Vision or the quadrilateral

2 responses to “What is an “Enlightened Ego Consciousness?” Part IX: “The Man of Knowledge””

  1. Scott Preston says :

    A friend alerted me to the title of a book she came across by an older Presbyterian Scottish dude, Thomas Boston by name (1676 – 1732) who wrote a book entitled Human Nature in its Fourfold State. There’s a bit of a description of it online, but can’t glean much about it from there.


    • Scott Preston says :

      Actually, I found a copy online of Boston’s book. But although, as Blake says “Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth”, this one is particularly silly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: